When Mindy and I lived in Chicago, her youngest sister visited often. We spent a lot of time off campus, walking Michigan Avenue, and showing her around town. One afternoon, an aggressive and un-showered man rattled off something (among a few other highly offensive things) about how “lucky” I was to have two women.
Before I even fully realized what was happening, Mindy charged off at him, got in his face, and fearlessly gave him a piece of her mind.
“Back off, asshole!”
Hands in the air, he stepped away quickly. “Hey, okay, okay.”
I really can’t wrap my head around the idea that many men apparently think, “hey, you know, I believe I’ll harass a woman on the street today.” How messed up does your head have to be to think you have that right? But these guys take it even further; when they’re exposed for it, they do things like threaten to rape and kill those women who make it public.
Take for example the video below: a woman walking through NYC took several hours of video (cut down to a manageable few minutes) of men “catcalling” (a woefully ineffective word) as she walked through the city. It was intended to raise awareness for a cause. (She’s already received death and rape threats.)
Of course, the comments on YouTube are mostly angry men who think she should have welcomed their so-called compliments. But the regular trail of “damn,” “hey beautiful,” and “god bless” are not intended as ordinary greetings, no matter what they say, especially when they are far from looking her in the eyes.
What they are saying to women goes to the heart of control and the attempt to possess: “Hey, baby, I’m watching you and there’s nothing you can do about it.” “Hey, beautiful, I can control the space you walk in with my words.” “Hey, I approve of you and my approval should be appreciated.” “Hey, you walk these streets to please me.”
How many women feel free to challenge these men without fear of violence in response?
Likewise, if the recent rise of the #GamerGate controversy shows us anything, it is that misogyny is alive and well in America and that controlling women is easier when they can be programmed for control in a game, essentially becoming what these men in the video want them to be in real life. And when women point out the problem, they often get death threats, as has been the case for Anita Sarkeesian and Felicia Day.
But really, how are these that different from what appears in the video below at the 30 second mark? A random man in the secretly-recorded video tells a woman in ISIS territory to cover up. “God loves women who are covered,” he says. What I hear him saying is, “I like a woman who is covered and submitted to my authority.” “God” is being used as his polite language, a socially-acceptable means of control. This is also an attempt to obliterate the dignity and independence of an individual.
So yes, if you set out to invade a safe-personal space, attempt to control an individual, force a woman into approving of your advances, or to possess a woman with your words, then you are the villain here (whether in NYC or ISIS territory). If you don’t want to be labeled a bad guy, then stop acting like one.
This leads me to point out Joss Whedon’s recent tweet in response to #GamerGate, which I believe is spot on.